It's not over until it's over.
12.09.2013 - 23.09.2013
The previous day had been fraught with missteps and this is our last day in Greece, so we decide to keep it low key. No hikes. No crowded towns. No steps. No death defying acts. We'd like to end the trip on a high note. Or at least a note that doesn't include shitting our pants, falling off a mountainside, or being treated for dehydration.
We start off the day with our last giant breakfast. I will miss the croissants the most.
We have confirmed that Santorini just doesn’t have any beaches that we would call beautiful. They are, however, interesting. We decide to go see Red Beach on the far end of the island, as it is supposed to be one of the most visually striking.
Deep red cliffs rise high above a turquoise sea. The beach itself is covered with a coarse sand, so course it’s really pebbles. The pebbles are red and black. It gives the beach a dramatic appearance.
We have no interest in lying on a towel on the hot pebbles, so we gawk and go.
Our time on Santorini has shown us that we don’t enjoy the heavily touristed towns like Fira and Oia, but we truly loved the quiet village of Megalochori. For this reason, we decide to give Fira a wide berth and head instead to Pyrgos, another town that is supposed to represent the quieter side of Santorini.
When we first arrive, I see sets of steps leading up into a hillside town. Several blue domes bob high above me in a sea of white. The few people I see soon disappear into the maze of stairways and alleyways studded by tiny chapels, gift shops and old houses.
We immediately find ourselves on a small, quiet street with a few colorful shops. We pass a small café and we see Pyrgos’ version of a crowd: four people gathered around a small wooden table sipping cold frappes. We are light years from the noisy, crowded streets of Fira.
Pyrgos is an oasis of quiet.
Once again, it’s just us and the donkey.
It is everything I expect a Santorini town to be. As we walk through the winding narrow lanes, tall white walls rise on either side of us with bright blue doors opening onto courtyards. Bougainvillea spill over, unable to be contained and bursting with color onto the streets. Stairs lead up into small alleys that hold the secrets of those who walked through these passages before us. We soon find ourselves lost in an ancient labyrinth of alleys, stairs, rooftops, and churches with the remains of a Venetian Castle towering above us.
Time seems suspended here.
We eventually find our way out of the endless maze of quiet streets and decide that it is time for lunch.
Despite all the choices on Santorini – we return to Seaside on Perivolos Beach. Our previous lunch there was so amazing, we want to see if they can do it again.
They can. And they do.
It’s our last day and we are already experiencing some anxiety over the certain lack of feta cheese and pastries in our immediate future, so we go all in.
We have the Greek salad, a tomato risotto, sautéed mussels, meat pastries, and their signature fish and chips.
When we ask the waiter what type of fish it is, he replies, “Coad.”
“Coad?” we say, with puzzled looks.
“Yes. Coad,” he repeats, like we're slow. (Or American).
We still look confused so he says, “You know, Coad. C-O-D.”
“Oh, COD,” we say (drawing it out….kaaaahhhhhd).
He laughs and repeats it, “Kaaahhhhd. Yes.”
We have learned during our time in Greece that, while most menus are offered in English, much like the “coad,” they are just a little “off.”
Here are my favorite actual menu items that I saw on the trip:
Selfish with white wine (I have always liked a little wine with my selfish.)
Mushed Potatoes (similar to mashed potatoes, but one uses a musher instead of a masher to make them.)
Avacado from Hell (No idea what this is, but I wouldn't want to meet it in a dark alley.)
Anti-Seafood (in case you didn’t know, cows and chickens actually HATE seafood; they even have a bumper sticker campaign.)
Cheese balls cheese, eggs, milk, flour, nutmeg (Um. Okay. That’s not a menu item. That’s a recipe.)
Burger with fresh mince meat (Mmmm….mincemeat burgers, my favorite holiday treat.)
Rolls with mouse of feta (Mouse is a word that should never appear on a food menu. Ever.)
Appetizer Trilogy – fava beans, eggplant & traditional tzatziki (If it’s anything like Lord of the Rings Trilogy, you’ll get that third item in about 2 years.)
Sea bass fillet - In greaseproof paper (Following this line of thinking, I suppose they should also have french fries in deep fry basket and pasta in colander.)
Giant Beans (I wanted to know what they were, but I was afraid to order them. They need to be more careful. Didn’t they read Jack and the Beanstalk? You can’t just be selling these to anybody.)
(I think THIS is what happens if you eat Giant Beans)
Cheery tomatoes (I do like my tomatoes to be happy.)
Scrabbled Eggs (These are similar to mushed potatoes, but you have to be a very good scrabbler to make them.)
Kid in flowerpot for 2 persons (Although, if it’s a big kid , he can possibly feed 3 or 4. I think the flowerpot is to make it less Hansel & Gretal-ish.)
Lamp liver with onions (Ummm.......)
Oven lamb without done (See….you take the lamb, you put it in the oven, but then you don’t actually turn the oven ON.)
Pork meat dainty (Pig with a doily and bonnet.)
Winy pork stake (Otherwise known as a crying pig stick.)
Chicken mouthfuls (I just want to know whose mouth they are using as a measure.... and I am pretty sure it's part of the metric system.)
Traditional risotto with cock of our production (I am just going to leave this one alone.)
Dark Gabbage with little secrets (Its secret is that it’s not really a gabbage at all.)
We are stuffed, but it’s our last day. We have to finish strong.
So we order the Chocolate Santorini, a blend of dark chocolate, raisins, hazelnuts, cookies, Gran Marnier, cream, and sweetened condensed milk melted together and frozen before being cut into thick slices and served with ice cream.
The chef delivers our dessert himself and says, “I had to see who ordered this much food. I am so proud of you.”
When you get recognized in a Greek restaurant for eating a lot, I am not sure it’s a compliment. It’s like being the fat kid that eats the most cake or the alcoholic who drinks the most beer.
I shrug and say, "We are American."
We spend the afternoon lounging on the beach. It is bliss.
Our final sunset in Greece has arrived. I will miss the excitement that builds on these islands as the golden hour approaches, locals and tourists alike lining up along the edges of streets, terraces, and rooftops, trays of cocktails and wine being passed around, a hush falling over everything as everyone seems to hold their breath and wait. The excitement in the air is palpable as the light and colors change the whitewashed buildings around you. The water seems to cradle the sun and all eyes are trained on the same distant spot on the horizon as the sun slowly descends into the Aegean Sea and disappears.
For that moment, happiness is not so elusive…something you have to chase every day and try to fit in between commitments, stress, and disappointments. It is a glass of wine with the golden light reflecting off the rim, a warm hand inside your own, and the quiet sound of your own breath as the world is bathed in the golden glow of the setting sun.
It is true that nothing can replicate a Santorini evening.
After sunset, everyone heads to dinner. We make our way to Archipelagos, a restaurant housed in an 1860 Captain’s House perched on the caldera cliffs in Fira. It has been recommended to us by Georges because of its outstanding food and stellar views. So far, Georges hasn't steered us wrong.
We decide to dine indoors, because it is unbearably windy tonight. The hostess looks at us like we have lost our minds (or are American). It reminds me of our experience at Bariello on Milos. Apparently, NO ONE opts to dine indoors around here, even when there are gale force winds threatening to blow off your extremities.
There are only four tables inside the quaint restaurant and it would have been incredibly romantic had it not been for the table in the next room which held about 15 of the loudest Germans I have ever encountered. However, faced with the choice of hurricane force winds or loud Germans, I’ll take Germans for $400, please.
We start off with Cretan mijithra cheese pies (a soft white cheese in a pastry with honey and sesame) and a salad.
That is followed by a pasta with tomato and garlic sauce and the beef filet souvlaki.
We walk back to Firostefani, the lights of Fira shining in the distance.
Tomorrow, we fly home and this dream of Greece is over.